Thanks to Pete Langrish for finding this article
Dr. Frank B. G. Stableford took his game very seriously.
Who invented the Stableford system in Golf?
Golfers have asked the question dozens of times over the years, and usually the reply was vague, “A guy named Stableford, I guess.” By reference to some old, dusty books it has been found that the reply was right all the time. His name WAS Stableford.
Dr. Frank B. G. Stableford, to be more precise, a wealthy retired colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps, who had served as a surgeon in both the Boar War and the First World War. He cut a fine military figure – tall and upright, with an elegant moustache that matched his silvery, bushy eyebrows. But when he finished his round of golf at the Wallasey Club, near Liverpool, he was generally slumped a bit and his shoulders sagged.
And the reason was always the same. The total he scored. The scoring system wasn’t fair. He’d tell this to anyone who would listen. He acknowledged that golf was, indeed, a frustrating game, but it was the scoring structure that made it so punishing. A man could play a pretty good game overall, but by messing up on a couple of holes he could come in with a scorecard that was embarrassing to sign. There had to be a fairer way – a more meaningful reflection of a golfer’s play.
The Doctor, as he was called, took his game very seriously, analysed it thoroughly, and ultimately developed his own firm theories on the swing. He didn’t have the appearance of a good player, although he did eventually get down to a one-handicap. He was stiff in his movements, and this, combined with his height, made him seem awkward. To make up for some of this, he waggled almost endlessly, much to the frustration of his playing partners.
While he laboured over his mental drawing board for a better scoring method, his game flourished. He won the club championship of the Royal Porthcawl in South Wales and reached the semi-final of the Welch Amateur Close Championship. It was during this period he started toying with the notion of playing the game for points, rather than strokes.
He tried it out on his fellow members at Wallasey, where he would eventually become Club Captain. While Stableford was popular and very respected, the initial reaction to his radical proposal was something less than a rousing reception. After some fine-tuning, The Doctor proposed that two points should be awarded for par; three points for a birdie; four for an eagle; and five for a double eagle. There would be no points for one or more over par, and that 7/8s of the player’s full handicap would be allowed.
Some of Stableford’s golfing friends began to sample it regularly, and they liked it. And their enthusiasm for it soon rubbed off on the rest of the members. Finally, in 1932 – May 16 to be exact – the first Stableford competition was held at Wallasey. It was won by a 5 handicap Liverpool stockbroker with a winning score of 34 points, and the innovation received a sound endorsement from the players.
Before long, the new system was being tried all over Britain, and, eventually, wherever the game was played around the world. In 1969, the Wallasey Club established its annual amateur event for the Frank Stableford Memorial Trophy, and it has received popular support over the years.
In the U.S. it has also been a popular event at many clubs, but its broadest exposure came in 1976, when The International was launched with much fanfare on the PGA Tour. With its huge TV audience, Dr. Stableford’s brainchild reached more golfers than ever before and was proclaimed by most as a positive departure from the long string of stroke play events.
The International, held on the massive Jack Nicklaus-built course at Castle Pines, Colorado, plays to a variation of the Stableford format. Double bogey or worse is -3, bogey -1, par 0, birdie 2, eagle 5, and double eagle 8. The invitational field of 144 international players is cut in half after two rounds, and is reduced after the Saturday round to just 24 for the last 18 holes. It provides a lot of action on the course and good viewing for the fans. In playing for points, rather than protecting a total score, a player is more likely to attack the course.
Stirred by the marked success of The International, the PGA Senior Tour opted for a Stableford event for its Royal Caribbean Classic at Key Biscayne in early February. Playing for a $1.4 million pot, the over-50 brigade had high praise for the switch – especially Larry Nelson, last year’s big money-winner. Nelson made it two-for-two in the new year, and is shaping up as the Senior’s answer to Tiger Woods
The points scoring system originated by Dr Frank Stableford (1870-1959) was first used on 16 May 1932 at Wallasey Golf Club, Cheshire.
The original Stableford scoring system was played off scratch:
Dr Frank Stableford
Bogey* – 2 pts
1 over – 1 pt
1 under – 3 pts
2 under – 4 pts
3 under – 5 pts
*Bogey was the term used in those days rather than par
At the end of the round, the player added his full handicap to the points scored to get his total points.
This particular method was quickly recognised as giving the high handicapper a distinct advantage, for instance if the weather was so bad that no-one scored any points, the highest handicapper in the field would win. In subsequent events, strokes were taken at the relevant holes.
Dr Stableford had devised a prototype system while a member at the Glamorganshire Golf Club, Penarth, for use in Sept 1898.
The scoring was for a bogey competition (the Rules then were virtually identical to today’s).
” Each competitor plays against bogey level. If the hole is lost by one stroke only, the player scores one; if it is halved, the player scores two; if it is won by one stroke, the player scores three; and if by two strokes, the player scores four. To the score thus made, one third of the player’s medal handicap is added.”
(South Wales Daily News, 30 Sept., 1898)
Ever wonder why Stableford competitions often use 7/8 of handicap? In the early days, the maximum man’s handicap was 21. Dr Stableford believed that no-one should have more than one stroke per hole in his system; this adjustment allowed no more than 18 strokes per round.
The Stableford system was included in the end pages of Rules books from 1952, and in 1968 received official recognition as a form of play by being moved to the main body of the Rules.
Up till 1933 the definitions included a method of reckoning in match play. Here’s how it works:
You tee off, you’re playing ‘the odd’, i.e.. playing one more stroke than I. I tee off, I am playing ‘the like’. We reach our balls in the fairway – or rather, upon the fair green – where we have played an equal number of strokes. You will still hear players in the UK using the expression ‘like as we lie’ when they have played an equal number of strokes.
Your drive was longer than mine so I’m away, I am now playing the odd – it’s a fantastic shot, of course! You now play the like, a topped shot dribbling a short distance. Now, you have to play the odd, another bad stroke, going nowhere.
Your next shot is no better, you have played ‘two more’. Finally you get a good one away, onto the green and into the hole for ‘three more’. Now it’s my turn, I play ‘one off three’, but it’s a duff, so I play again, onto the green in ‘one off two’. My putt now is the ‘like’, so it’s for a half.
The neat thing about this way of counting is that it was not necessary to keep track of the number of individual strokes to know the state of the hole at any point. But, in 1912 an addition to the rules stated that a player was entitled to ascertain how many strokes his opponent had played. Can we assume that the number of strokes relative to the player was sufficient rather than an absolute number?
Bogey System in Golf Thanks to Mike Pack for finding this article
“Bogey” was the first stroke system, developed in England at the end of the 19th Century. The full history is given in Robert Browning’s History of Golf 1955.
In 1890 Mr Hugh Rotherham Secretary of the Coventry Golf Club conceived the idea of standardising the number of shots at each hole that a good golfer should take, which he called the ‘ground score.’
Bogey and Par
Par as a golfing term dates from the last quarter of the 19th century, and came into regular use in the early 1900s, more so in the USA than in the UK. Par was regarded as a perfect score made by a first-class player, without flukes and without error – and taking two putts on each green.
Bogey is a little harder to define. It was based on the best average scores of first-class players over a particular course, and as such was more individual, but standards would differ from course to course. Par, on the other hand, was based purely on hole length.
The bogey score therefore was a little higher than par, somewhere around 5-6 strokes. As par became more recognised as a standard, the term bogey came to mean one stroke over par.
The consistent definition of par was also an asset in allocating handicaps to visiting players.
Golf handicaps started to be widely used around the same time as par, although stroke allowances, for the purpose of wagering, had been around long before.
Alongside the explosive growth in the number of golf clubs in the last decade of the 1800s, calls were made for a central handicapping authority. In 1881 the method of averaging 3 rounds then deducting scratch score was introduced.
Administration of handicaps started in the early 1900s; the first official list in the USA dates from 1911. The concept of course rating grew along with handicapping, and the US rating system and the UK’s Standard scratch score for a particular course came into being about 1925
Bisques is an old method of handicapping. The player who receives strokes normally has those strokes allocated according to the stroke indices of the holes. Playing with bisques, the player gets a smaller allocation, normally half the handicap difference, which can be used at any time that he chooses, even after the play of a hole has been finished. Judicial use of them was an important element of the match.
Bisques were never ratified by the golfing authorities.
A History of Course Rating
Course rating, like golf, has its origin in the British Isles. The first measure of course difficulty was par. The word par is derived from stocks; i.e., “a stock may be above or below its normal or par figure.” British golf writer A.H. Doleman in 1870 asked Davie Strath and Jamie Anderson, two professionals, what score would be required to win The Belt at the then 12-hole course at Prestwick. Their response was that perfect play should produce a score of 49. Mr. Doleman called this par for Prestwick and when Young Tom Morris scored two strokes over par for three rounds (36 holes) to win The Belt, the term stuck.
Another measure for scoring difficulty of a golf course was “bogey” which was the expected score of the fictitious Colonel Bogey. About 1890, Mr. Hugh Rotherham of the Coventry Golf Club proposed the concept of a blind opponent in match play. He was called Colonel Bogey by Dr. Thomas Browne of Great Yarmouth. Colonel Bogey was a low handicap golfer who usually made 4 on long par-3 holes and 5 on long par-4 holes but otherwise played nearly flawless golf. Bogey scores ranged from 76 to 80 on most courses.
The first course rating system was developed by the Ladies Golf Union (LGU) under the leadership of Miss Issette Pearson in about 1900. Robert Browning in “A History of Golf’ says of the LGU, “Their biggest achievement was the gradual establishment of a national system of handicapping … No doubt it was uphill work at the start (1893) but within eight or ten years the LGU had done what the men had singally failed to do — they had established a system of handicapping that was reasonably reliable from club to club.”